Fly Fishing On The Rio Grande River In
Rio Grande means Big River in the Spanish language.
It is a big river for sure. It is 1885 miles long and the
second longest river in the United States. Fly fishing
the Rio Grande River from its headwaters downstream
to the San Luis Vally is probably the most overlooked
and under fished trout water in the state. Well over half
of the river is in a desert environment and doesn't get
knee deep anywhere. However, that is a completely
different picture of the Rio Grande than the one you
would capture in the San Juan Mountains of Southern
Colorado. There, it is a small mountain stream with a
beautiful background of above timberline terrain.

The stream flows down from the San Juan Mountains
into the huge San Luis Valley. It quickly becomes too
warm for trout to exist as it crosses the almost flat
valley. It crosses the Colorado state line into New
Mexico where it drastically changes again. There it
cuts a huge gorge through the earth, and once again
becomes the home of cold water loving trout.

Not far north of Santa Fe it becomes so dry at times it
disappears. This section of our Perfect Fly website
covers only the portion of the stream in Colorado. The
section in Northern New Mexico is under a separate

The Rio Grande starts from melting snow in the rough
and tough San Juan mountains. The area is one of the
most remote and uninhibited areas there are. It is
surrounded by peaks that reach up to 13,000 feet.

Throughout its course down to the valley, it changes
character several times. You can fish a wide variety of
different types of water. It ranges from hike in waters
that you can roll cast across to wide waters big enough
to float in a drift boat.

The wild trout can become a little selective at times.
Matching the hatch and/or about what is going to hatch
can be very important at times if you expect much
success. Although the river is fairly easy to fish, it isn't
a push over.

The techniques, fly fishing strategies and tactics you
use to catch trout on the Rio Grande River varies
greatly with the section of the river you are fishing. It
has a very diverse range of water types ranging from
smooth flowing, slick water pools to deep runs and
riffles. Much of the water consist of heavy pocket
water. To be consistently successful fly fishing the Rio
Grande you have to be able to use a great variety of
methods selected for the type of water your fishing as
well as the species of trout you are pursuing. Trout
can range from being highly selective to quite
optimistic feeders.  
Rio Grande
River Colorado
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Photo Courtesy of David Knapp Photography
The season is fairly short for the portions
of the stream in the higher elevations.
May to mid-June is runoff time.
Rio Grande River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
Rio Grande River and in all stages of life
that are applicable to fishing. If you want to
fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call.  We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.

The aquatic insect populations varies
depending on the section of the river you
are fishing but those listed below are
plentiful throughout most of the stream from
its headwaters to its lower section.

Prior to the runoff, the main hatches
consist of Western March Browns and
Blue-winged Olives. The March Browns can
get caught up in the high runoff water
depending on the exact time it occurs. The
BWOs can start as early as late February
and early March but April usually is the
most consistent time for the hatches to
begin. About six different species, mostly
Baetis, species make up what is called

There's also a Fall hatch of the
Blue-winged Olives. It usually takes place
from late September through the month of

Midges are very plentiful in the Rio Grande.
Imitations will work well anytime and
become more important when the water is
too cold for most other insects.

Small black winter stoneflies hatch in the
early season, even when there's snow on
the ground. These are mostly found in the
fast pocket water.

Salmonflies are present in some sections of
the river and begin to emerge in early June.
They are often caught up in the Spring
runoff. You will find some hatches of
Golden Stoneflies become to come off in
late June to early July. Sometimes the
runoff effects the fishing conditions during
the hatch and on other years it misses it. It
all depends on the snowpack. These are
found only in the fast pocket water
sections. The hatches can last into the first
of August.
Hatches, continued:
LIttle Yellow Stoneflies are plentiful in
fast water sections in late July and early

The first caddisflies to hatch are the Little
Black Caddis, called the Mothers Day
hatch in most places in the West. This
hatch starts in mid April and last about a
month. In is a sparse hatch but can be

In late June and early July, there's three or
four different species of caddisflies called
Spotted Sedges that begin to hatch.
These are the most plentiful of the
caddisflies and the different species
hatch throughout most of the Summer and
on into the early Fall.

The next most important caddisfly hatch
are the Green Sedges. They hatch from
May through September, depending on
the species. Imitations of the Green Rock
Worms, or their larvae, work year-round.

In late June, usually before the runoff
ends, Pale Morning Duns will start
hatching. The PMD hatch will last most of
the summer and other than BWOs is the
most consistent mayfly hatch.

In some areas of the fast water you will find
a few Pink Ladies that hatch in August and
September. Many anglers call these
mayflies Yellow Quills.

In the late Summer, August and
September, terrestrials can play an
important role in the trout's diet. Imitations
of grasshoppers, ants and beetles will
become important flies. Many sections of
the Rio Grande are surrounded with grass
and hay fields.

Sculpin are very plentiful throughout the
river. There are some other types of
baitfish and minnows but sculpin are by
far  the most important in the food supply
for the trout.

Streamers that imitate sculpin, such as our
Perfect Fly Brown Sculpin, will take trout
year-round. It is best to fish streamers in
low light situations such as early and late
in the day and during heavy overcast
situations. The are especially good for
taking larger, pre-spawn brown trout.

Summer is the best time to fish the river.
Early fall can provide some excellent
Trout Streams:
We have Perfect Fly
each of these other
fine trout streams.
Click the links for fly
including descriptions
of the streams,
access, location,
species of fish, a fly
fishing guide, a fly
fishing report, hatches
and recommended
trout flies, fly fishing
gear and equipment,
USGS stream data,
local weather and
much, much more
The river is still in good shape
and we continue to get good
reports. Several hatches are
taking place and Sculpin patterns
are working.
Be sure to check out
the fishing Rio Grande fishing
report by clicking the above link.
Type of Stream

Brown Trout
Rainbow Trout

Small to Medium

South Central Colorado

Nearest Towns

15th April to November 1

Fair amount/some tough to access

Non-Resident License
State of Colorado

National Weather Service Link

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Trout
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

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